SAARC Countries to improve regional tourism

The lack of connectivity and information sharing among the countries of South Asia, which hinders the development of tourism sector in the region, will be addressed by encouraging regional tourism among the countries. Lack of connectivity makes travelling difficult for tourists, which affects the tourism sector in South Asia region. President with South Asian Association Regional Corporation Chamber for Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI), Suraj Vaidya, said that South Asia is the least connected region in the world and the focus of the meeting has been to make travelling easier in the region.

“The aim is to make visa much easier for the south Asia region and make connections in different areas,” he added. It was pointed out that dis-connectivity in the region has resulted due to lack of cooperation between private sectors and government, and the political situations in the region.

It was discussed that to improve tourism sector in South Asia inter-regional tourism needs to improve which could be done by improving visa availability.

Afghanistan’s deputy minister of information and culture, Sayed Muzghan Mustafavi, said that there is an initiative to start e-visa in the SAARC nations. “We hope that in a year’s time, the religious visa will come through which is now under process,” he added.

It was recommended that to improve the relation in the region, tour packages such as Buddhist tour package aiming at multiple countries in the region could be started.

“We also have ‘Unleashing South Asia’ and 20 other projects which plans to make South Asia a tourist destination within and outside the region,” Suraj Vaidya said.

Chairperson of Pacific Asia Travel Association, Sarah Mathews, said that the region suffers from minimal information which limits the development. She added that the countries need to understand their target tourists and work towards it with proper resources such as visa and infrastructure. Spokesperson of Tourism Council of Bhutan, Damcho Rinzin, said that the recommendations made will be discussed. “The meeting has a huge potential. With the tourism connectivity, the countries will benefit with joint marketing space and exposure,” he added.

In South Asia, the tourism sector contributes 8.9 percent to the GDP. Consultant with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Joseph George, said that the countries in the region have developed individually but the region as a whole still remains behind. He added that South Asia can improve by working together which will help the employment sector in large.

The 70th executive committee meeting of SAARC CCI discussed issues related to young entrepreneurs. It also aimed at making South Asia region one of the most preferred tourist destinations in the world among others.

The meeting began on July 23 and ended yesterday in Thimphu.

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